Benefits of Gardening for Your Mental Health

Those that love to garden, know that spending time amongst the petals provides numerous mental health benefits such as reducing stress, becoming closer to nature and enjoying peaceful, alone time. Let’s explore what makes gardening so healing.

Promotes exercise

Gardening is a great way to get exercise. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins into your brain. Endorphins are chemicals produced by your body to relieve stress and pain. Even though gardening sometimes feels more like a chore than a fun activity, gardening has a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Goodbye technology

Let’s face it- we spend too much time on our cellphones, in front of the TV or computer. Activities such as gardening is a great escape from constant screen time. There’s nothing quite like checking an item off your to-do list to make you feel accomplished.

Encourages healthy eating

Gardening has many benefits, including growing your own produce. Research suggests that those who grow their own food are more aware of the health benefits of eating from their own gardens. Growing your own produce is a healthy way of living life. Food grown in our own backyards encourages us to eat better because it’s fresh and we know that a lot of TLC went into producing what’s on our plates.

Improves mood and decreases stress

It’s a proven fact that sunlight improves our mood. Working productively in the garden increases serotonin levels, causing you to be happier throughout the day and improving your mental health overall. Gardening also can improve your mood, bring out your creativity and spark innovation. Getting your hands dirty in the soil, specifically soil bacterium, mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin, a natural antidepressant.

Improves concentration

People who garden tend to have longer attention spans. Gardening can have long-lasting impacts on our mood in a positive way. If you’re the type of person who has anxiety or depression, research shows that working in your garden on a regular basis can reduce triggers, as the activity leads to fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment.

Fresh air, exercise, sunshine, creativity and peaceful time alone — and more — make gardening a fun hobby that also improves your mental health. So what are you waiting for – go out and enjoy!

Building a Fairer, Healthier World

World Health Day, April 7, was started in 1950 to create awareness of priority concerns in world health. This year the World Health Organization has decided to focus on health equity, with a slogan, “Building a fairer, healthier world for everyone.”

This message is one that resonates deeply with the Shenandoah Community Health Clinic. This clinic was founded to bring affordable healthcare to an area that needed it. Originating in 2002, we provide services for behavioral health, dental health, and comprehensive medical care to the whole community, with special supports for low-income and underserved patients.

Building a fairer and healthier world is about removing barriers to care and improving conditions that affect health. Each person can contribute to this goal in different ways.

1. Become a patient and/or pass the word. If you need healthcare but struggle with affording it, consider becoming a patient at our clinic. If you know of someone who could use our services, please pass along our information.

2. Donate. There are many organizations working towards health equity using different methods. Find an organization you like and see how you can get involved.

3. Support your community. You can support local and state policies that reduce health inequity. Working within your own community might include supporting the establishment of a new public park or walking trails, or cooking healthy meals at church. Use your unique skills, interests, and relationships to increase health equity.

4. Get educated. The World Health Organization has an online database to compare health equity among countries. Health Equity Monitor ( The American Public Health Association offers lots of information online about health equity and how it affects the United States. Health Equity (

5. Share the health equity message. Talk to your children, friends and family about health equity and what it means.

Working together, we can all make our world fairer and healthier.

Routine Checkups Help Maintain Your Good Health

You’re feeling OK, so why get your routine checkup? Often when you are not feeling sick, it’s easy to push back a doctor’s appointment or skip it altogether. But continuing to get annual, and sometimes more frequent, screenings are important for maintaining good health.

As we age, our health needs change. As do our recommended health screenings. Checkups can detect problems early on, allowing more time for prevention and treatments.

The average person should see their doctor for a routine checkup at least once a year. However, if you have family history that includes health issues like cancer, or if you have a chronic disease like diabetes or hypertension, its likely you need to visit the doctor more frequently.

Preparing for your routine checkup can help you get the most out of your time with the doctor. This is the time to ask your doctor questions, notify them of any medical changes you have noticed and to address any concerns you may have.

To prepare for your annual checkup, follow these simple steps:

– Arrive early

– Know the names and doses of your medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter drugs. Most doctors prefer that you bring the bottles with you to assure their records are correct.

– Know your vaccine history and bring any hard copies of vaccine records you have

– Bring the dates of any recent procedures, screenings or tests you have had done since your last check-up

– Lastly, be open and honest with your doctor. Ask necessary questions but be open and honest with your responses.

Investing in a doctor’s visit can catch an issue early and could save your life. To quote George William Curtis, “Happiness lies first of all, in health.”

Check-in with your doctor about your health, goals and concerns today. To schedule a routine checkup, call the Shenandoah Community Health Clinic, 540-459-1700.

Colon Screening: A Life-Saving Tool to Find a Common and Treatable Type of Cancer

The colon is a vital part of the human body, but talking about colon screening can be uncomfortable. It’s a little awkward discussing bowel movements, and more awkward to provide a sample of one!

But much like middle school gym class, colon screenings are a necessary, albeit intimidating, part of life. The colon reflects how the rest of the body is functioning, and colon screenings in high risk populations can save lives.

Here are five reasons you should schedule a colon cancer screening.

1. Colon cancer is common in the United States. Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in men and women, and the third leading cause of cancer related deaths. About 150,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with colon cancer in the United States this year. The good news is that early identification of cancer through a colon screening will increase the chances of survival by a lot. Early intervention has a five-year survival rate of 90%. Once the cancer has spread and grown to be more malignant, the five-year survival rate is about 10-20%.

2. Age is not just a number. Colon cancer is most common in older adults; about 90% of new cases are found in people 50 years of age and older. As adults reach ages 45-50, it’s important for them to discuss this with their doctor and schedule an initial colon screening.

3. Relevant Risks. Although most cases are in older adults, the rate is rising in young adults. Since 1994, colon cancer diagnoses have doubled in adults under age 50. This may correlate with the national rise in obesity, as diets low in nutrition and a lack of exercise increases risk of colon cancer. Alcohol consumption and tobacco use also increase the

risk of developing colon cancer. If you have a history of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohn’s disease, or a family history of colon cancer, you should be screened before you reach age 50.

4. Digestive troubles. Symptoms of colon cancer may include blood in your stool, unintended weight loss, consistent stomach pain or changes in your bowel movements. Although these symptoms are not always related to cancer, you should discuss them with your doctor to determine the best course of action.

5. To thank your colon. Colons are hardworking organs. Colons help the digestive system function and help the body maintain homeostasis. They absorb water and minerals from digested food and then create waste from the stuff we don’t need. This 5-6 foot long tube helps to balance the bodies PH, and is always on the clock.

There are several options when it comes to colon screening. The test you get depends on your risk factors and comfort level. If you think you fall under any of the above high risk groups, schedule an appointment with your doctor or our Clinic to discuss your options. Remember that while it may be an awkward subject, colon screening can also be a life-saving one.

What Does Depression Look Like?

Depression is a mood disorder that millions of Americans suffer from each year. It is also the leading cause of disability in ages 15-44. Depression often presents as deep sadness, depleted energy, and suicidal thoughts. Sometimes it can be hard to identify depression, even in ourselves. Here are five lesser known symptoms that may indicate depression in you or a loved one.


● Sleep Disturbance. Changes or difficulty in sleeping patterns is a common symptom of depression. This could look like insomnia, difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. It can also look like oversleeping, or even both of these at different times.

● Apathy. Although depression can cause intense sadness, it can also cause feeling nothing at all. Many of those diagnosed with depression report feeling “blank” or numb. It may be hard to connect with displays of emotion, or hard to care about things you once found important or exciting. Loss of interest in hobbies and/or diminished sex drive are both strong indicators of this symptom.

● Difficulty in Concentrating. Some refer to this phenomenon as “depression brain”, and it feels like brain fog and struggles with memory recall. Depression may make it difficult to pay attention to forces outside of the body and brain, and can also impact short term memory.

● Anger. Increased irritability and displays of anger can also be symptoms of depression. This is especially more common in men, who may feel more comfortable displaying anger than sadness. This may look like frequent outbursts, even over seemingly small things.

● Change in Weight. Depression may cause an increase or decrease in weight, depending on the person. Some suffering from depression might find it difficult to eat, causing weight loss and further depleted energy levels. Some may find themselves eating more than usual, as a coping mechanism. Overeating and immobility from fatigue can cause weight gain.

This is not an exhaustive list of all symptoms of depression, but it can help determine a need for professional intervention. If you or a loved one is struggling with depression please call our office to set up an appointment.

Why It’s Important to Use Sunscreen in the Spring 

Springtime means gardening, afternoon walks and sunshine – but you better use sunscreenNinety percent of the sun’s ray can penetrate through clouds- meaning even on a cloudy or cool day, you can get sunburned. Here are some helpful tips to protect your skin this spring. 

Use sunscreen that is SPF 30 or greater and water-resistant with broad spectrum coverage. The number indicates that if you are using it correctly, including reapplying it every two hours, it will take 30 times longer for you to turn red. 

Re-apply sunscreen every 1.5 to 2 hours. If you’re sweating or in water, reapply more often. Yes, you can burn even if covered in water, like when swimming or snorkeling. 

Always make sure to check that your sunscreen hasn’t expired. Toss it if it’s over a year old, as your SPF starts to become less effective at blocking damaging UV rays. If your sunscreen doesn’t have a date, be sure to write the date of purchase on the bottle.  

Always apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. It takes time to absorb into your skin. To achieve proper protection, you should use approximately two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin. This is about two tablespoons on all of your exposed areas or a nickle-sized dollop on your face. 

Don’t forget to use sunscreen on the tops of your feet, ears, scalp and lips. We often forget these area’s and therefore they are prone to a higher risk of skin cancer.  

Always use a sunscreen that is designed for your face. Increase your sun protection by wearing sunglasses, a hat and protective clothing. 

Limit sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.- as this is when the sun is strongest.  

Spring is an enjoyable time to be outdoors. Use sunscreen and you can enjoy it for more hours and more safely.  

Getting the Most from Your Medical Appointment

Being an active participant in your healthcare is essential for getting the most from your medical appointment. The suggestions below may help. Be assured that our office is committed to helping you to be as healthy as you can be!

1. Ask questions. Your appointment is all about you! Ask any questions that will clarify your treatment, educate you on your health conditions, or help you feel at ease. It’s a good idea to write down your list of questions and concerns before you visit the doctor, to ensure you are getting the most from your medical appointment.

Some examples of questions include: What symptoms should I watch for? Is there anything I should avoid during treatment? Are there other treatments available besides what you recommend?

2. Be honest. Your medical practitioner is there to help, not judge. Be honest about your habits and prepare to disclose anything that could be affecting your health. If you are forgetting to take your medication or don’t like the side effects, be honest! Your doctor will do as much as they can to work with you.

3. Discuss all health factors. Getting the most from your medical appointment requires you to be clear and specific about any symptoms or health concerns you have. Even if you may believe it’s irrelevant or insignificant, it’s important to review it with your doctor. Volunteer information even if you’re not specifically asked about it — it could still be useful. Disclose your family medical history to develop a proactive healthcare plan.

4. Ask for a recap of each appointment. A lot can be covered in one doctor’s visit. It may be difficult to keep track of all the relevant information. For getting the most from your

medical appointment, ask your doctor for a final summary of what you’ve discussed. It’s helpful to take notes in your own words. Reviewing those notes later can help you remember the important details.

5. Don’t forget to follow up. It’s important to regularly check in with your healthcare team, especially after your visit. You may have follow up labs, x-rays, tests, therapy, or medicine. This is also a good time to notify them of progress in your treatment, or if necessary, get another appointment so that they can reevaluate and fine tune the treatment plan for even better results.

Call our office if we can help. As a healthcare provider, we are committed to help you toward being your healthiest self, including getting the most from your medical appointment.

How Can I Reduce My High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, affects about half of adults in the United States. Hypertension may not initially cause noticeable symptoms, so you should regularly monitor your blood pressure. Normal blood pressure levels in adults fall under 120/80. The first number is systolic blood pressure. This number measures the pressure in your arteries as your heart beats. The second number refers to diastolic blood pressure. This measures the pressure in your arteries as your heart is resting. According to the American Heart Association, you are considered to have high blood pressure/hypertension when your systolic value is over 130, and your diastolic value is over 80.

If you are experiencing headache, shortness of breath or nosebleeds that can indicate severely high blood pressure. These symptoms may require emergency medical services. Hypertension increases your risk for other serious health complications like heart disease, stroke, aneurysms, and dementia. High blood pressure can damage your arteries and limit your oxygen and blood supply. Unchecked high blood pressure may eventually lead to poor memory and reduced brain function. To discuss or test your blood pressure levels, please schedule an appointment at our office today.

If you suffer from hypertension, normal blood pressure levels can be achieved through lifestyle changes. To help reduce your high blood pressure you can incorporate:

● Regular exercise. Increasing your exercise and activity levels will strengthen your heart, allowing your blood pressure to lower as it takes less effort to pump blood. Exercise can also help to reduce weight. If you are overweight, losing the extra pounds will help stabilize blood pressure levels. Regular exercise will also help with stress management, an important component of achieving a normal blood pressure.

● Stress Management. Strategies to reduce stress can include meditation and breathing exercises, counseling, or even your favorite hobbies. Listening to soothing music, spiritual counsel, and seeking out laughter can also help. Our world has gotten increasingly stressful and demanding, so it’s important to find tactics that work for you and your lifestyle.

● Diet Change. Changing your diet to limit sodium and increase potassium can help mitigate hypertension. Some potassium rich foods include kidney beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, among others. Reducing or eliminating alcohol and caffeine consumption is also proven to improve blood pressure levels. You may also consider diet change to help with weight loss.

● Eliminate tobacco use. Smoking causes temporary spikes in blood pressure. Tobacco use can damage your blood vessels, increasing inflammation and narrowing your arteries. When your arteries are constricted this increases blood pressure as the blood flow is reduced.

These strategies are just some that have proven effective to reduce your high blood pressure. As always, contact your doctor or call Shenandoah Community Health Clinic if you would like to be checked or treated for hypertension.

Why We Request Our Patients Bring All Their Medications To Every Appointment

Dr. Damewood Explains…

I request my patients bring all medications, including prescription, over the counter, herbal, and home remedies, they are using to every visit. Many patients ask why I can’t refer to a list and/or why they have to bring the actual pill bottles, even when they brought them their last visit. All of these are great questions, given the inconvenience of having to gather and remember them all. However, after reviewing medications directly from the pill bottle each visit, it is rare that I don’t find at least one potential problem. But why is this?


Medication Variety and Availability

We have seen an explosion in the number of medications our patients are taking. Our patient population is also becoming older, with more medical problems. The pharmaceutical companies haven’t been far behind this boom in developing new drugs. Pills now come in a bewildering number of shapes and colors, and the individual strengths differ in their presentation, making identification almost impossible. Many of these medications are also now available in generic forms or have been combined with other pills to create even more variety and complexity.


It is not unusual to have patients refill their medications through different pharmacies at different times or use different generics for the same medications. I have actually seen different generic forms of the same medication in the same bottles and the same medication being taken from different pill bottles at the same time. I have even found some patients taking both the generic and brand name form of the same medication together. 


There are also many different pills within the same class of medications, and it is not unusual, because of cost and insurance, to have to change medications within the class. This may result in taking too much of a similar medication for the same reason.


Confusing Instructions

Occasionally, instructions on a pill bottle may be misunderstood, making the visit an opportunity to verify proper use.


Multiple Doctors, Multiple Medications

Some patients have more than one doctor involved in their care. Although doctors try to communicate, this can create confusion. Not precisely knowing what medications each patient is taking from all their doctors could make prescribing medications potentially dangerous, due to drug interactions.


Complications and Refills

Having one’s medication bottles at each office visit also allows me to review complications with their medications, and at the same time ensure that refill prescriptions are written, saving the patient and staff unnecessary work.